poem index

Poem as Screenplay: Six Video Collaborations

Year

2013

Type

Video

What's the difference between a poem and a screenplay? According to these filmmakers, not much.

We've compiled a list of six video adaptations of poems by Wanda Coleman, Rita Dove, Allen Ginsberg, Amy Hempel, Mark Strand, and Anne Waldman—including cross-genre collaborations with Juan Delcan, Ryan MacDonald, Gus Van Sant and more.

No need to read—just sit back and watch:


"In a Tub" by Amy Hempel

Directed by Ryan MacDonald, 2012.

My heart—I thought it stopped. So I got in my car and headed for God.

Commissioned for the 12th Annual Juniper Literary Festival, held on April 13, 2012 in Amherst, MA, Ryan MacDonald's video presents a series of overlaid images—including found footage of a family vacation—paired with a robotic female-sounding voice reading Amy Hempel's poem.

"In a Tub" appears in her collection Reasons to Live (Harper Perennial, 1995).


"The Poem of the Spanish Poet" by Mark Strand

Directed by Juan Delcan, 2011.

Black fly, black fly
Why have you come

This short was produced by Todd Boss and Angella Kassube—who founded Motionpoems, an organization that pairs professional animators with poets to create a visual interpretation of their work.

Mark Strand's "The Poem of the Spanish Poet" first appeared in the journal Salamagundi and Best American Poetry 2011 before being adapted by Juan Delcan into this crisp, black and white "motionpoem."


"Silos" by Rita Dove

Directed by Mark Pellington, from The United States of Poetry, 1995.

They were masculine toys. They
   were tall wishes.

The award-winning PBS series for which this video was created, by Bob Holman and Josh Blum, aired in 1995. Here, Dove ruminates on the rural/industrial qualities of silos—over a beautifully photographed montage of these strange, architectural containers.

"Silos" appears in Dove's collection Grace Notes (W. W. Norton, 1991).


"The Ballad of the Skeletons" by Allen Ginsberg

Directed by Gus Van Sant, 1997.

Said the Supreme Court skeleton
Whaddya expect

Allen Ginsberg collaborated with an all-star lineup of musicians, including Philip Glass and Paul McCartney, to adapt his poem "The Ballad of the Skeletons" into a song. Film director Gus Van Sant joined the project, which Ginsberg calls "a great collage...of old Pathé, Satan skeletons...local politicians, Newt Gingrich, and the President."

"The Ballad of the Skeletons" appears in Collected Poems 1947-1997 (Harper Perennial, 2007).


"Talk About the Money" by Wanda Coleman

Directed by Mark Pellington, from The United States of Poetry, 1995.

we need to talk money. to
understand the current currency
   of our time.

The initial image that appears—before cutting to Coleman's poetic/mock infomercial—is the conceptual artist Barbara Kruger's poster We Get Exploded Because They’ve Got Money and God in Their Pockets (1984). Coleman offers a similar critique, reframing her call to action via the visual cues of advertising. Featured in the PBS Documentary The United States of Poetry, Wanda Coleman's poem parodies the medium on which it was originally aired.

"Talk About the Money" appears in her collection Hand Dance (David R. Godine Publisher, 1993).


"Uh-Oh Plutonium!" by Anne Waldman

Produced by Hyacinth Girls Music, 1982.

Mega mega mega mega mega
   mega mega death bomb—
   ENLIGHTEN!

Anne Waldman's 1982 video of her poem "Uh-Oh Plutonium" brought poetry to new wave. She writes, in her afterward to Fast Speaking Woman, that she had been teaching a class at The Naropa Institute in which they "tried out various enactments of words to create a force field of energy for protest demonstrations at Rocky Flats plutonium plant in Boulder." Waldman "began chanting 'Mega mega mega mega mega mega mega death bomb—ENLIGHTEN!' the summer of 1978, later working the lines into [the] recording of 'Uh Oh Plutonium!'"

"Uh-Oh Plutonium" appears in Fast-Speaking Woman: Chants and Essays (City Lights, 2001).